Anusara Yoga’s Universal Principles of Alignment & Embodiment

yoga student practicing anusara yoga's universal principles of alignment and skull loop

Anusara Yoga’s Universal Principles of Alignment may help us cultivate embodiment. When we experience the same yoga poses, year after year, using the surprisingly basic, yet phenomenal, template of the Universal Principles of Alignment (UPAs), we often recognize something occurring that is much deeper than shape, rules, or outer protocols.

Anusara Yoga’s Universal Principles of Alignment

Anusara Yoga’s five UPAs are

  1. Open to Grace / Set the Foundation
  2. Muscular Energy
  3. Expanding Spiral / Inner Spiral
  4. Contracting Spiral / Outer Spiral
  5. Organic Extension

UPAs and Embodiment

Over years of practice, traveling the road of the UPAs and repeating them over and over again, we may construct a pathway of awareness that becomes a language through which we may feel our bodies more deeply. We may learn what we need and how to respond to our needs. Eventually, our experience of the Universal Principles of Alignment becomes an embodiment.

We often begin our Anusara Yoga methodology conversation about the UPA’s through a lens of right versus wrong as well as safe versus unsafe. These initial phases of understanding on our journey with Anusara’s alignment-oriented yoga has value.

Peak Pose Strategies with Christina Sell

Enjoy this Samudra Shakti Online free continuing education YouTube video with Christina Sell, Certified Anusara Teacher, as she explores the many ways to sequence asana classes in Anusara yoga. We can use a general template strategy or a heart-based theme, an alignment principle, a philosophical perspective, a category of postures, a body part, or a functional movement.

Right versus Wrong – Universal Principles of Alignment

At first, when studying and practicing with Anusara Yoga’s Universal Principles of Alignment, we may approach from a perspective of “right versus wrong.” This is good. It creates a container of knowledge for “how to do a yoga pose.” The focus is primarily on the outer shapes and what is often called “placement.” During this time of growth, we are also focused on correctly naming poses in Sanskrit and our native language. This phase is marked by extreme growth and a feeling of tremendous accomplishment as we serve ourselves and others with our highest intentions for yoga alignment.

Safe versus Unsafe – Universal Principles of Alignment

Eventually, our expansion continues. We begin to see Anusara Yoga’s UPAs as ways to keep ourselves and our students safe. We often learn a long list of yoga safety cues such as “curve first, then length.” In addition, we repeat the tried and true instructions such as “90-degree angle at the knee in Warrior One.” While these types of alignment cues are helpful as we continue to evolve, we also begin to flourish in additional ways. With steady practice, we begin to feel there is something much more refined developing inside of us.  

Shape Specificity vs. Generality – Universal Principles of Alignment

Furthermore, as we progress in our practice, we realize there’s unlimited potential to move and breathe in ways that are enjoyable, yet don’t require mental focus or a specific understanding. Agreed, general movement can be beneficial to us emotionally, However, the postures may not be integrated physically. In addition, we may not be engaged mentally. During this phase of expanding exploration, we often discover a needed quality of “clarity in the posture through alignment versus vague execution.”

Honestly, no matter how precise the cues and how good the method, we are all similar and different. The universality of “engage” doesn’t tell us the specificity of “how much” or give us all the tools to know exactly how to do it.  To complicate matters further, we know that positions that are perfectly fine for one person’s body can wreak havoc on another.

Journey toward the Self – Universal Principles of Alignment

Most importantly, on our wisdom path, we eventually arrive at an ever unfolding understanding of Anusara Yoga’s Universal Principles of Alignment. With steadfast awareness of regular yoga practice, we recognize our alignment to something much larger. 

Not only is alignment a process of clarifying outer shape and inner action –  most importantly, alignment establishes and refines our relationship with our attention and awareness. This occurs in such a way that our  simple alignment “cues” transform and become guideposts for our journey toward the Self. 

A Journey in Awareness – Universal Principles of Alignment

A good yoga pose sequence will prepare the body, educate the intellect, and encourage the emotions through a process of self-acceptance and expansion. Little by little, over a long period of time, with reverence and care, we can travel through the many thickets and glorious vistas on and off the mat using the tools of the method until we realize that we are not imposing shapes or concepts on ourselves or others. Instead, we are on a journey in Consciousness to the vastness within through the limitations of shape.

Anusara’s UPAs and Embodiment

The ultimate blessing? Our embodiment of Anusara Yoga’s Universal Principles of Alignment may be endlessly refined and adapted to our ever-changing needs. The UPAs may wisely support us on our life’s journey on all levels of our being: physically, energetically, emotionally, and cosmically.

About the Content Creators

Christina Sell

Known for her passion, clarity and creativity, Christina Sell’s teaching style is a dynamic and challenging blend of inspiration, humor and hard work. Christina believes that yoga practice can help everyone access their inner wisdom, authentic spirituality, and clarify their highest personal expression.

Lisa Long, M.A.

Lisa wants to live in a world where Love gives you a permission slip to drop the mask and be who you are. She enjoys practicing near water to remind her to remain in Love’s flow.


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